Citation

Bearing Witness: African Americans and Infanticide Investigations in the Nineteenth-Century South

Abstract | Word Stems | Keywords | Association | Citation | Similar Titles



Abstract:

In March 1826, the Pitt County Superior County of North Carolina, sentenced a young woman, Rehny Joiner, to prison. At only six months, Joiner’s jail terms may seem relatively short. Yet, incarceration for any length of time, particularly sentences handed down to women, were unusual in North Carolina during the antebellum period. Unless women had committed a crime so heinous that it warranted the death penalty, few—if any—women were ever incarcerated. As communities usually had only one jail, reserved for men, communities faced practical difficulties in jailing women, and local people generally disliked doing so believing that prison was unsuitable for women, even if they were convicted of a crime. Therefore, Rehney Joiner’s sentence of six months suggested that the community felt sufficiently wronged by her crime that incarceration was necessary.
Rehney Joiner’s crime was infanticide. Crucial to the jury’s finding of guilt, and by extension Joiner’s sentence, had been information provided by several African American women in the community. Local black women, enslaved and free, had been involved in the search for Joiner’s dead baby, and later testified at the inquest conducted over the infant’s body. As this paper will illustrate, inquests served as a crucial site for the creation and production of narratives about infant murder, narratives that then entered the courtroom. Although North Carolina law, like laws in all Southern states, precluded the African-American women who participated in the inquest over Rehney Joiner’s dead infant from testifying in court, the evidence they gave became part of the narrative that explained the infant’s death and identified Joiner as culpable. That narrative was then repeated and recirculated in court by white witnesses, thereby contributing to the jury’s eventual finding.
Drawing on instances of infanticide from North Carolina, this paper illustrates how investigations into infant death in the antebellum U.S. provided an arena in which the testimony of black Southerners sometimes assumed a privileged status within the community. Decisions about the guilt and innocence of black and white women were made by community leaders based on the authority jurors vested in information provided by African Americans. The significance of local knowledge and information therefore enabled black Southerners—enslaved and free—to claim an important role in the legal processes within the communities of which they were a part. Although excluded by virtue of race from full participation in many “formal” activities of the law, venues outside the courtroom—such as inquests—provided opportunities for the incorporation and inclusion of African Americans in nineteenth century legal processes.
Convention
All Academic Convention can solve the abstract management needs for any association's annual meeting.
Submission - Custom fields, multiple submission types, tracks, audio visual, multiple upload formats, automatic conversion to pdf.Review - Peer Review, Bulk reviewer assignment, bulk emails, ranking, z-score statistics, and multiple worksheets!
Reports - Many standard and custom reports generated while you wait. Print programs with participant indexes, event grids, and more!Scheduling - Flexible and convenient grid scheduling within rooms and buildings. Conflict checking and advanced filtering.
Communication - Bulk email tools to help your administrators send reminders and responses. Use form letters, a message center, and much more!Management - Search tools, duplicate people management, editing tools, submission transfers, many tools to manage a variety of conference management headaches!
Click here for more information.

Association:
Name: The Law and Society Association
URL:
http://www.lawandsociety.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p644260_index.html
Direct Link:
HTML Code:

MLA Citation:

Turner, Felicity. "Bearing Witness: African Americans and Infanticide Investigations in the Nineteenth-Century South" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Sheraton Boston Hotel, Boston, MA, May 30, 2013 <Not Available>. 2014-12-11 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p644260_index.html>

APA Citation:

Turner, F. , 2013-05-30 "Bearing Witness: African Americans and Infanticide Investigations in the Nineteenth-Century South" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the The Law and Society Association, Sheraton Boston Hotel, Boston, MA <Not Available>. 2014-12-11 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p644260_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In March 1826, the Pitt County Superior County of North Carolina, sentenced a young woman, Rehny Joiner, to prison. At only six months, Joiner’s jail terms may seem relatively short. Yet, incarceration for any length of time, particularly sentences handed down to women, were unusual in North Carolina during the antebellum period. Unless women had committed a crime so heinous that it warranted the death penalty, few—if any—women were ever incarcerated. As communities usually had only one jail, reserved for men, communities faced practical difficulties in jailing women, and local people generally disliked doing so believing that prison was unsuitable for women, even if they were convicted of a crime. Therefore, Rehney Joiner’s sentence of six months suggested that the community felt sufficiently wronged by her crime that incarceration was necessary.
Rehney Joiner’s crime was infanticide. Crucial to the jury’s finding of guilt, and by extension Joiner’s sentence, had been information provided by several African American women in the community. Local black women, enslaved and free, had been involved in the search for Joiner’s dead baby, and later testified at the inquest conducted over the infant’s body. As this paper will illustrate, inquests served as a crucial site for the creation and production of narratives about infant murder, narratives that then entered the courtroom. Although North Carolina law, like laws in all Southern states, precluded the African-American women who participated in the inquest over Rehney Joiner’s dead infant from testifying in court, the evidence they gave became part of the narrative that explained the infant’s death and identified Joiner as culpable. That narrative was then repeated and recirculated in court by white witnesses, thereby contributing to the jury’s eventual finding.
Drawing on instances of infanticide from North Carolina, this paper illustrates how investigations into infant death in the antebellum U.S. provided an arena in which the testimony of black Southerners sometimes assumed a privileged status within the community. Decisions about the guilt and innocence of black and white women were made by community leaders based on the authority jurors vested in information provided by African Americans. The significance of local knowledge and information therefore enabled black Southerners—enslaved and free—to claim an important role in the legal processes within the communities of which they were a part. Although excluded by virtue of race from full participation in many “formal” activities of the law, venues outside the courtroom—such as inquests—provided opportunities for the incorporation and inclusion of African Americans in nineteenth century legal processes.


Similar Titles:
'Due to her tender age': African-American responses to girl rape in late nineteenth-century South Carolina

Julia A. J. Foote and the Wandering Chorus: Nineteenth-Century African American Autobiography as Hymn/Book

"The Lingering Affects of Jim Crow upon African American Voting and Political Participation in the 21st Century South"

Foundations of South American International Society: Wealth and Warfare in the Nineteenth Century


 
All Academic, Inc. is your premier source for research and conference management. Visit our website, www.allacademic.com, to see how we can help you today.